Spaceflight Insider

Profiles of Inspiration4: Jared Isaacman and a trip to space

Jared Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur and avid pilot, bought a SpaceX Crew Dragon and put together the Inspiration4 mission, the first all-private civilian trip into space. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

Jared Isaacman, a billionaire entrepreneur and avid pilot, bought a SpaceX Crew Dragon and put together the Inspiration4 mission, the first all-private civilian trip into space. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

SpaceX is less than a week away from making history by launching the Inspiration4 mission, the first all-private citizen flight into Earth orbit.

The Inspiration4 mission consists of four non-professional astronauts — Jared Isaacman, a self-starter who dreamed of flying and going to space his entire life; Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor and now a St. Jude physician assistant; Sian Proctor, a geoscientist, explorer and science communication specialist; and Chris Sembroski, an Iraq war veteran and current Lockheed Martin engineer.

The historic Inspiration4 mission is the brainchild of Isaacman, who is 38 years old. The mission came together in a matter of weeks at the end of 2020 and early 2021 and is being used to raise $200 million dollars for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Isaacman bought all four seats and offered three seats to three ordinary people that would be selected by different means — a representative of St. Jude, the winner of an entrepreneurship competition as well as the winner of a raffle. The seats represent the four pillars of the mission: leadership, hope, prosperity and generosity.

This is the first of four stories profiling the Inspiration4 crew, which are expected to launch in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center as early as Sept. 15, 2021.

When they launch, Isaacman will be the commander of the three-day mission into Earth orbit, and represents the mission pillar of leadership. During the flight the crew is expected to perform a multitude of human health and medical research.

The Inspiration4 crew in Florida in March 2021. From left to right: Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

The Inspiration4 crew in Florida in March 2021. From left to right: Jared Isaacman, Hayley Arceneaux, Sian Proctor and Chris Sembroski. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

Jared Isaacman: High school dropout turned billionaire

Isaacman grew up in Bernards Township, New Jersey. His fascination with technology started at the age of 9, where he spent most of his time in his parents’ basement with his best friend Brendan Lauber fixing computer parts.

They eventually started a small company known as Deco Systems, where they helped clients with minor computer issues. Isaacman attended Ridge High School for about two years before realizing his passion of working with technology could become a sustainable career.

At just 16 years old, he began working at a private firm called CompUSA, where eventually one of his clients offered him a full time job at Merchant Services International, leading Isaacman to make the decision to drop out of high school and pursue his new full time job.

“I hated high school,” Isaacman said in a past interview, “I watched my older siblings out in the world and they seemed to be having a much better time than me. I could not wait to be an adult.”

After several years of honing his skills with computing technology at Merchant Services International, Isaacman realized the process for processing credit card sales was entirely too cumbersome and expensive, giving him the idea to create his own company in 2005 called United Bank Card.

The company started out in his father’s basement as a payment processing company for small businesses that eventually turned into a major point of sale platform known as Harbortouch. Eventually, the Harbortouch platform was picked up by many of the world’s most successful hotel, retail, and restaurant chains.

Jared Isaacman's flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

Jared Isaacman’s flight with the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. Credit: Inspiration4 / John Kraus

In 2017, he acquired Shift4 Payments, and remained the CEO where he currently sits to this day.

As he grew older, Isaacman reignited a lifelong passion for aviation by starting flying lessons when he was 21 years old.

After earning his flight certificates, he attended Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, earning his bachelor’s degree in Aviation in 2011. He began learning how to fly high performance jets, quickly becoming type-rated in aircraft such as the L-39 and Alpha Jet.

Jared is no stranger to philanthropically-motivated adventures, completing the fastest around-the-world flight in a light jet in 2009, flying from New Jersey to Alaska via the Azores in just under 62 hours.

At the time, Isaacman raised over $100,000 for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He capitalized his aviation career by performing with the Black Diamond Jet Team as an L-39 pilot, and then later founding Draken International, a private company specializing in training Air Force pilots.

At his core, Isaacman lives a family-centric lifestyle. With two kids of his own, he has stated on many occasions that, no matter what, family comes first.

This is the first of four stories profiling the Inspiration4 crew. Click here for the story about 29-year-old Hayley Arceneaux, a childhood cancer survivor and now a St. Jude physician assistant who represents the space mission’s pillar of hope.

Video courtesy of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Video courtesy of Orbital Velocity

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Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.

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